War And Peace
There is a persistent buzzing sound eminating from the mouth of one John F. (for Flip-flop) Kerry regarding the current difficulties in Iraq. Depending on what day of the week it is, Kerry will tell you:
1. We're losing.
2. He could do it all better than Bush.
3. Iraq is on the brink of civil war.
4. Iraq is a "distraction" taking us from our real target, Usama Bin Laden.
How, pray, will Mr. Kerry change all of this if by some unfortunate accident of fate (or perhaps massive vote fraud) he should find himself occupying the White House on January 20th? According to John, the way to do this is to get our "allies" (as if Britain, Poland, Australia, South Korea, Italy and a host of others were merely "acquaintances") to help us out. Specifically, France and Germany. The method by which Mr. Kerry is supposed to persuade such friends that it is in their interests to help the United States and Iraqis, when Mr.Bush could not, is left mysteriously undefined. If one had to take an educated guess, one would assume that Mr. Kerry feels that he is "more likable" (I rather like the concept of international relations devolving into a populatarity contest, don't you?). On the other hand, there is always outright bribery: forget that business about the FrankenReich forgiving debts and take contracts for reconstruction from Haliburton to give to Seimens or ELF. Of course, the sacred United Nations is supposed also to suddenly become competent and shoulder some of the load. If we planned on opening brothels in Iraq, I'd say get the U.N. on board RIGHT NOW.
Considering that the U.N., France and Germany were offered the opportunity to do the right thing prior to our invasion of Iraq, and declined, I don't think we should be rewarding them for being recalcitrant. I mean, it's not as if they don't owe us anything, right? I guess shouldering the burden of European defense for 60 years and lending legitimacy (and vast sums of money) to the U.N. were simpy our responsibilities, and it would be crass to ask for something in return.
And of course, the case for even doing the things I have just speculated on runs up against one major problem: Mr. Kerry has defined Iraq as "the wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time" or something similar. If a prospective President screams that the war is wrong, why would any self-respecting country (let alone the French) decide to get involved anyway? Are Germans and Frenchmen supposed to throw away their own few soldiers in a hopeless cause? Of course, this also runs up against the illogical position taken by Mr. Kerry that he once supported war full-throttle and now wants to take his vote back (for votes, no less). Would you follow a hypocrite into a war?
As for America losing this battle in Iraq, I beg to differ. Yes, Americans are being killed and there are certain places in Iraq that resemble Tombstone more than they do Singapore, but what did anyone expect? Was it realistic to believe that once Americans had overrun the country that a) everyone would be happy about it and b) once Saddam was in the pokey that his former enemies and cronies would just sit still? A major rule of thumb that has been with us from time immemorial with regards to war: when you eliminate the current regime, it usually gets messy when the former enemies of that regime jockey for power.
No one ever said that pacifying Iraq and turning it into a functioning first-class democracy was going to be a quick, easy and antisceptic job. Anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at history would know that.
In 1945, the United States emerged triumphant in the Second World War. We occupied Germany and Japan, removing the Nazi regime of Germany and the militarist regime in Japan. The occupations were made even more difficult by the fact that not much of an economy remained in either country because we happened to bomb them flat. It took DECADES for either country to recover and to begin functioning again. In the case of Germany, re-establishing democratic traditions was quite easy since Germans had been a unified country with a democratic tradition going back at least a century. Japan was a little more difficult for cultural reasons, however, Japan had been adapting Western industrial and political forms since 1856.
In 1953, the United States, at the head of a United Nations force, stopped North Korean and Chinese aggression against South Korea. Again, South Korea took decades to rebuild itself and to straighten out it's policital systems. And this was a country that had very few democratic traditions to lean on at all: Korea was a monarchy that had at various times, been absorbed by Chinese, Japanese and Russian armies, and hadn't known anything like self-government for nearly 200 years. Still, Koreans learned and they emerged from the wreckage of war as a stable democracy.
In the Middle East, Iraq in particular, we cannot even pretend that there was ever anything resembling a democratic tradition or a modern economy. Iraq had one industry and that was oil, and it was built by westerners until nationalized by successive repressive, felonious regimes. Iraqis have never (to my knowledge) had anything like an election, unless of course, it was a sham. We are dealing with a population that has suffered deprivation for a decade and half, repression for three decades and which has never had a clear stake in the direction of their own country. There are various ethnic and religious differences between it's citizens that cannot help be come to boil at some point. We have outside regional powers (Iran) attempting to manipulate events within Iraq for it's own purposes.
Establishing a functioning democratic entity under these conditions was almost certain to result in the distressing situation we see now.
Are we losing? No, because it's way too early to tell. Could Mr. Kerry do a better job? Since he claims he would do everyting Mr. Bush has already done, I don't see how his sparkling wit and bubbly personality helps the situation all that much. Is Iraq on the brink of civil war? Show me a country that has been occupied that hasn't been on the brink of civil war.
As for whether or not Iraq is a "distraction", Mr. Kerry and his fellow-travelers are afflicted with a nasty case of short-sightedness. Iraq was a sponsor of terrorism. It was widely believed that Saddam Hussein was working on the capability to turn Mr. Kerry's Nantucket lodgings into a radioactive pile of dust. And finally, the problem of terrorism is not a law-enforcement issue, nor is it a political issue: it is a CULTURAL issue. We could arrest and detain all the terrorists we want to in Gitmo, but it doesn't change the mindset. Democracy, a job and a stable society DOES change the mindset. That's what the war Iraq is all about now. To admit so, though, doesn't win Mr. Kerry any votes since societies rarely change quickly. The more misrable things are, the better it is for Kerry.
As for Usama bin Laden, he lays moldering in the bottom of some collpased cave near Tora Bora (I believe) and he was just a mascot anyway. The real issue is not the war, the casualties or the expense. The real issue is whether or not America can change Iraq and Iraqis for the better and make them an example for other nations of the Middle East. I'm betting we can, but Rome wasn't built in a day, was it?